As brands look to embrace a consumer choice economy—one fueled by customers staunch in having the product they want, when they want it, and how they want it delivered—technologies that, just a few years ago, seemed Jetsons-Esque are becoming commonplace across the retail landscape. Here’s a look at how technology is enabling seamless omnichannel experiences for customers, as well as exciting opportunities for brands and retailers.
Every retailer knows this consumer trick: a consumer orders two sizes, knowing they will keep one and return the other. While it makes sense from a consumer perspective, it’s “tricks” like these that allow returns to continue plaguing retail businesses everywhere. With virtual fitting rooms, shoppers can wear a headset to get a 3-D picture of how an item might look on them. Gap, for example, is launching a Dressing Room mobile app that will allow customers to virtually try on clothes using avatars that match their particular body type. And Neiman Marcus now has interactive mirrors where shoppers can make side-by-side comparisons without having to try on each item.
By pulling digital analytics from your physical store, you can use technology to drive sales within your brick-and-mortar store(s). Tools like Prism and Beaconstac allow you to aggregate anonymized data on how customers shop: from the path they take once they walk into your store, to the display tables or shelves they linger at the longest. This technology can also enable an omnichannel experience by notifying customers about deals as soon as they enter the store. Macy’s uses shopBeacons to provide customized rewards by linking customers’ online shopping accounts with their in-store visits. If a customer has a particular pair of jeans in her online shopping cart, she might receive a coupon for 10 percent off that specific pair of jeans when she physically enters Macy’s.
Social Messaging Selling
For retailers using Shopify who have a Facebook business page, social selling and communicating with your customers just got a lot easier. With this integration, customers now have a “Shop Now” option when they start a conversation with the business via Facebook messenger. A Shopify bot makes product catalogs and pricing available within Messenger. Customers can click ‘buy now’ which takes them directly to checkout. Once an item is purchased from Messenger, your team can communicate directly with the customer, answering any questions and providing order tracking information. Enabling customers to shop and engage with your brand directly from where they already are is another way social media is making buying seamless for consumers.
Subscription Services as Distribution Channels
When subscription boxes entered the market, consumers treated them as gift-like products— exciting, novel ways to incorporate surprise and delight into their buying habits. Now, however, retailers are realizing the importance of leveraging these services as channels—a means for consumers to discover new products to which they then become loyal. The subscription box model enables retailers to physically get their products into the hands of their target audience. Which is helpful, since people are more likely to buy something they’ve touched. In fact, a recent study shows people were willing to pay an average of 60 percent more for an item they’d touched or held longer than a group of people who only touched it briefly.
Integrated Backend Operations
It’s difficult to impress customers with futuristic technology if you can’t then give them—or at least quickly find—the item they want. It’s important to know exactly how much inventory you have distributed across your various warehouses, physical stores, and online marketplaces in a single glance, and to instantly know when your stock is low. With centralized inventory management, you can lower the amount of inventory you have on hand while increasing stock availability to meet omnichannel demand.